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Tom Gillam

Had Enough? – 2009 (Smith Music)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Tom Gillam

Four years ago, singer/songwriter Tom Gillam had the third and most serious of his three heart attacks, an event that finally forced him into a lifesaving sobriety. Although there was a certain spirit of reprieve to Gillam's subsequent 2007 album, "Never Look Back," it was there by virtue of perspective; the bulk of the album was already finished when Gillam flatlined in a New Jersey hospital. To get a real sense of Gillam's reclamation requires a spin through his latest album, a set that at least partially addresses the shifts in his life and mindset over the past four years.

With his relocation to Austin and his freshly laundered lifestyle, Gillam and his backing band, Tractor Pull, have never sounded more vibrant and engaged. As a result, "Had Enough?" sports the rejuvenated sound of vintage Joe Walsh if he'd been guided by Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Marshall Tucker Band and Poco. The visceral roots rock of Real Thing and the laconic punch of Ready to Begin probably most directly reference Gillam's literal and figurative resurrection while bristling with the classic heartland rock vibe that Walsh championed with the James Gang and Barnstorm, filled with perfectly moody slide guitar runs and effortlessly memorable melodies. Elsewhere, Ride pulses and pumps with roots rock abandon as it slips in a little swampy Tony Joe White folk/blues atmosphere and Weary Game sighs with the quiet desperation of Steve Earle's best work.

With rock in his heart, a twang in his roots and reclamation on his mind, Tom Gillam may just have molded "Had Enough?" into the best album of his career.